February 21, 2018
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How to protect a vulnerable senior online

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
January 26, 2018

The internet is much more accessible to seniors than ever before. Today’s seniors have been motivated to learn online access and engagement because they know this is where to find kids, grandkids and ways to shop for them without having to leave home. This can be a huge advantage to a senior with issues such as arthritis or other mobility concerns.

Unfortunately, the internet can still be a place fraught with problems. Older seniors and other late-learners can easily be tricked by scams and fraud.

Online Safety

There is no such thing as an app to protect or prevent anyone from falling for an online scam. No one can be there to supervise 100 percent of the time, unless you have in-home supervision around the clock. Many seniors use night hours when sleep patterns are disrupted by pain or discomfort, to attend to an online world. Lonely seniors are particularly vulnerable to the online “sweetheart” scams.

To support our seniors, programs have been developed to help them navigate the internet and social media. Home care providers will often offer tech-focused home care programs. These are programs that are designed to provide seniors with in-home support for online technology. This is especially important for combating online fraud targeted at vulnerable seniors.

Online security risks for seniors 

Anyone responsible for supervising an elderly loved one needs to be aware of their use of online technologies. The concern for their online security is well-founded. Anyone over 65 will be twice as likely to fall victim to online fraud over the rest of our population. This risk is increased exponentially with even older seniors.

This is because our older adults who use the internet can be especially susceptible to scams. These are the three main reasons:

Seniors are usually much more susceptible than other age groups to all types of fraud. They are not used to this new culture of lies - and have built their world on an assumption that most people are honest. This places so many seniors at an immediate disadvantage.

Seniors who have begun using the internet much later in life - often lack the filters needed to identify obvious scams. The more unfamiliar anyone is with the online world, the more likely they are to automatically click on links that most people automatically know to avoid.

The worst point, however, is the most disconcerting for everyone; scammers know that seniors are extremely vulnerable. This means that our online scammers deliberately target online forums where seniors are more likely to be spending their time.

Senior dating websites

The internet is rife with “sweetheart” scams. This is a type of catfishing scheme. It is designed to specifically target a lonely senior. The predator pretends to be a senior looking for love. They will target a vulnerable senior, then spend weeks and even months developing an online relationship. They will usually move the relationship offline in order to avoid detection.

Suddenly the scammer will invent a story where they desperately need funds. The point is to convince the targeted senior to wire them money. Once they get as much money as they believe is available, they will suddenly disappear completely.

Other common scams include:

Impersonation of tax officials

Pretending to be grandchildren asking for funds

Phishing websites that trick seniors into giving up banking information, or

Emails that ask seniors to submit sensitive personal information to receive a free prize that doesn’t actually exist

Online security and in home supervision

 In an effort to help protect seniors from obvious online scams, greater in home supervision is often required. A tech-savvy care provider will be the most effective approach to re-educating and diverting an elder from falling for online scams.

These programs partner seniors with caregivers who are experienced internet users. Caregivers guide seniors as they use the internet and social media, giving helpful tips and advice.

Anytime a caregiver sees a dangerous looking website, email, or instant message, they will warn the senior. An effective caregiver will succeed at supporting the senior in not engaging with suspicious sites. If seniors are uncertain about whether or not something is safe, they can ask the caregiver for advice.

Naturally, most seniors will enjoy having an experienced internet user around. This actually makes their online experience far less stressful, while at the same time making it much more enjoyable. Usually if someone is worried that your loved one might be falling for online scams, chances are good that they’re just as worried.  

Pairing your elder with a caregiver who can help them stay safe online -  gives them peace of mind, and allows them to surf without anxiety.

If you think a tech-focused care-giver can help protect your senior, just call 707-586-1516 to learn more about how to schedule a three-hour supervision session for your senior’s online activity

 Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She would love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.